Kingfisher Country Park
Project Kingfisher was formally declared Kingfisher Country Park in July, 2004.
It is associated with an 11km stretch of the River Cole running from the Coventry Road (A45) at Small Heath as far as the M6 at Chelmsley Wood.
Inaugurated in 1985, it is a joint project sponsored by both Birmingham City Council and Solihull MBC together with English Nature, The Environment Agency, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country.
Its overall aim is to care for the valley of the River Cole, improving it both for people and wildlife. Kingfisher Country Park has been designated under the 'Man and the Biosphere' programme.
The valley contains many different types of landscape and wildlife habitats. Alongside the river there are areas of formal public open space, tall herbs and scrub, coarse grassland, wetland with several small ponds and ancient woodland. There are also a number of man-made lakes. The lake at Shard End has been created in the remains of an old gravel quarry, whilst Babbs Mill Lake in Kingshurst was formed as a balancing feature in times of flood.
Along the river, kingfishers and herons are a common sight, feeding on fish in the river. Water voles and mink are both associated with the river and, more recently, otters have been recorded at the lower reaches of the Cole.
Over the years several ponds have been dug at Shard End to make the most of the natural wetland within the valley. These have now developed to become wonderful havens for pond invertebrates and amphibians. Common toads, frogs and smooth newts are to be found alongside dragonflies and damselflies, beetles, water boatmen and water scorpions, all of which live in and around the ponds. In winter, teals have become regular visitors to the ponds, and widgeons have also been recorded.
Next to the pond is an area of coarse grassland where skylarks have bred successfully for a number of years.
Yorks Wood at Kingshurst is an eleven-hectare ancient woodland. Predominantly oak, there are records of a woodland on this site that go back over hundreds of years. Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council purchased the wood from the scout movement in the 1980s and approximately ten years later it was declared a Local Nature Reserve. The wood is home to a wide variety of birds, with sparrow hawks and greater spotted woodpeckers breeding every year. In spring the woodland floor is a carpet of bluebells. Wood anemone and celandine are also to be found in other areas of the wood throughout spring. Towards the end of the year many species of fungi can be found, which helps to make the wood an all year round attraction.
All along the river there is access for the keen walker or cyclist. By following the river upstream you can reach the Ackers, and further on to the Shire Country Park, formerly known as Millstream, alternatively you can join up with the Grand Union Canal. At the lower end of the river in Chelmsley Wood you can continue into Coleshill and beyond. You can also join Kingshurst Brook in Chelmsley Wood, which takes you through Meriden Park and on into Sheldon Country Park.
There are a number of smaller circular walks within the valley and these are contained in a booklet, which is available from the Rangers.